Facebook wanted to “inflict pain” on Apple after Tim Cook’s privacy comments

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg took Apple CEO Tim Cook’s privacy comment in the aftermath of the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal personally. As a new report alleges, he told employees that “We need to inflict pain” on Apple in retaliation over the privacy dispute.

Clash of the Tech Titans

According to the Wall Street Journal, a Facebook spokeswoman has denied that the dispute between the two companies is personal. According to her statement, Facebook is “deliberately standing up to Apple” on behalf of businesses and developers.

Current and former Facebook employees said Mr. Cook’s comments left many inside the company feeling that Apple was unfairly picking on them, with executives grumbling that Mr. Cook wasn’t singling out their social-media rivals in the same way.

As the article states, Zuckerberg at one point even told executives who were unhappy with the pace at which Apple approved its app updates that this could be Tim Cook’s doing.

At various times, Mr. Zuckerberg proposed to his deputies, sometimes by email, that Facebook should delay launching new products on Apple devices and instead give the rival Android operating system an exclusive window, according to people familiar with the matter. Facebook didn’t do so.

Zuck reportedly confronted Cook privately about the app approval situation at a gathering of media execs in 2017. The meeting didn’t go well.  “Mr. Cook appeared unwilling to give ground, and Mr. Zuckerberg felt he was abrasive, according to people debriefed on the conversation.”

Facebook readying a legal case against Apple

Apple’s recent privacy-boosting initiatives revolving around user tracking, plus Tim Cook calling privacy one of the world’s most pressing concerns, have been ticking off the chief executive of Facebook. In iOS 14, Apple’s App Tracking Transparency initiative will soon require user permission before apps could track you. Facebook has now tasked its lawyers with preparing an anti-trust legal case against the iPhone maker over the upcoming feature.

A Facebook spokeswoman, Dani Lever, said the choice between personalized services and privacy was a ‘false trade-off,’ and that Facebook provides both. ‘This is not about two companies. This is about the future of the free internet,’ she said, asserting that small businesses, app developers and consumers lose out under Apple’s new rules.

‘Apple claims this is about privacy, but it’s about profit, and we’re joining others to point out their self-preferencing, anticompetitive behavior.’

While the potential regulatory settlements and legal decisions could affect smartphone users in the coming years, we think that Facebook won’t stand a chance in any legal complaint against Apple that revolves around privacy.

“I wouldn’t be in this situation”

The Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018 exposed Facebook as a company that doesn’t care about user privacy. Asked in 2018 how he would handle the situation if a similar crisis occurred at Apple, Tim Cook simply said, “I wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Zuckerberg was offended by Cook’s comments, saying he thought they were “extremely glib” and “not at all aligned with the truth.”

A clash of two business models

Facebook and Apple have increasingly been at odds due to their opposing business interests. Whereas Apple sells premium hardware, software and services, Facebook makes money by profiling users and serving targeted advertising.

Zuckerberg has labeled Apple one of Facebook’s biggest competitors. “Apple may say they’re doing this to help people, but the moves clearly track with their competitive interests,” he said.

The same can be said about Facebook, Zuck!

A Facebook smartwatch in 2022

Facebook is also reportedly building a smartwatch to compete with the Apple Watch, with plans to start selling the device starting next year. While the rumored push into hardware might lessen Facebook’s dependency on platform giants Apple and Google, it could easily raise privacy concerns because the device would connect users to health apps.

Given Facebook’s terrible track record on data privacy, a Facebook smartwatch is very likely to collect massive amounts of sensitive health data in the process.